The focal point of the display is the mannequin, the faceless, nameless victim of persecution. It is a woman (although many cases involved men) but represents all those who were victimised and silenced (she is wearing a scold's bridle).
For a long time, the Museum has displayed a list of those who died. Not a comprehensive list (so many names and cases are unknown) but a significant number of names, places and dates associated with persecution. We wanted to retain this (and it is still on display) but we also wanted to extend it to include more detail of some cases when that detail is known.
We wanted this to feel like a memorial, we imagined this mannequin representing these people when they were incarcerated, writing graffiti on their cell wall about their case. The figure would no longer be nameless but the visitor could use them to project different stories onto. What led them to being chained in this way? These accounts give us some idea. We wanted the display to feel personal, to include women and men, to span as wide a period as possible and to include information from accusations and confessions.
At our recent May Event, attendees were asked if they would write a memorial based on research done by the Museum team. Many people took us up on this offer and contributed their time, energy and love to making this memorial. The handwritten texts convey the individuality of each person accused and also the individuality and perspective of the person who wrote it. It is a symbolic link between witchcraft in the past and the present.
We think it is visually striking, interesting and thought provoking and we value it all the more for having the help of people who care about the Museum and feel passionately about the treatment of those accused of witchcraft in the past.
Above: the list of those who died is still on display.
Here are some of the cases which appear in the display, they had to be shortened for space (books have been written on some of these cases so we make no claims to have written comprehensive histories in a couple of sentences!) For a full look, best to visit the Museum!
Petronilla de Meath
Dame Alice Kyteler was accused of murdering her husbands using sorcery and poison but escaped execution. Her servant, Petronilla, was accused of being an accomplice; she was tortured and confessed to witchcraft.
Flogged and burnt at the stake, Kilkenny, 1324.
Dummy the Witch
Accused of bewitching a young girl and thrown into a stream by a drunken mob.
Died of pneumonia, Sible Hebingham, 1863.
Two of the mob were charged with his murder.
Alice, Agnes and John Samuel
“The Witches of Warboys”
Accused of causing children and servants to have fits and to having caused the death of Lady Cromwell by uttering the words: “Madam, why do you use me thus? I never did you any harm as yet.”
Hanged, Cambridgeshire, 1593.
Accused by a schoolmaster’s wife of bewitching him to death. She was accused of crushing his heart in pieces, causing him to sweat and cough up blood. Before he died, he said she had squeezed the life out of him.
Hanged, Chester, 1675.
Michael and Alice Trevysard and their son Peter.
Accused of using witchcraft to cause accidents, including making ships catch fire and sink.
Alice and Michael hanged.
Peter escaped arrest, and was married (to Joan Colman) in St Clement's Church in Dartmouth in 1615.
Accused of making a charm (written backwards) to bewitch a local magistrate and causing death by witchcraft.
Hanged, Denbigh, 1594.